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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  September 5, 2016 11:00pm-12:01am PDT

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he said he couldn't handle talking about it. i was angry at him. if you're not going to tell me what happened, then you're going to dance around the issue and tell three different stories, what are you hiding? >> it started as a teen romance. >> two of my girlfriends are like, there's this guy, and you need to meet him. >> i was in love, yes. >> it ended in one of the strangest love stories you'll ever hear. >> i felt like i got hit by a bus. >> right before their wedding, her mother and his father got
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married. >> they told us, we ran off, we eloped. who does that? >> two families in a small town left stunned. but it was nothing compared to what happened next. >> he looks like he's been shot. he said someone broke in last night. >> a deadly attack in the dark of the night. her mother murdered. >> i realized that last conversation i had with her, that was it. >> his father bruised and bewildered. >> i don't remember anything else, other than waking up in the morning. >> was it a robbery? >> the television's on. >> was it revenge? >> you're always going to look at the closest people to the victim. >> or was it something much darker? >> you were 11 years old when your mother disappeared. >> a missing woman, a murdered woman, and a lie. >> i didn't get through more than a page and a half, and i threw it. i could barely stomach to finish it.
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>> welcome to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. aaron candelario and shannon palmer were young and in love and engaged to be married. but their family was rocked by scandal. then murder. aaron's father was found at the crime scene dazed and confused. but his confusing story had police questioning his version of events. here's keith morrison with "tangled." >> you can't put words to that. it was very surreal. >> 911. where is your emergency? >> it's true, the old saying, when you marry someone, you marry their family, too. >> we need an ambulance. he looks like he's been shot. he said someone broke in last night. him and his wife both. >> not a bad thing to turn to mom or dad for advice and counsel. >> it's hard. sometimes you think maybe it didn't happen. but yet it really did. >> it's with their help and support, after all, that true love could deepen and grow, and
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last. >> i watched the crime scene shows on tv. i never, ever thought, it's going to be my life. >> yes, it really is all about family. the high desert opens up near pueblo, colorado, about 100 miles or so south of denver. among the highest of the nation's deserts, a little closer to heaven perhaps? this is where shannon palmer's mom and dad set out to create a good, safe, and holy life for their daughters. far from the risks and temptations of the city. >> it was awesome. got to grow up with horses and dogs everywhere and chickens and 40 acres to run around on. >> shannon and her sister kelsey went to school right at home. their mother, pam, devoutly jehovah's witness, was their teacher. >> i loved it. i don't think that i missed out on any aspect of my education. >> there were strict guidelines,
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of course, about beliefs, family, marriage, sex. there were no birthday or holiday celebrations, and they learned that members who commit adultery or who divorce can be cast out, shunned. shannon and kelsey's dad, jerry, didn't share the faith, but he respected pam. though he was never a real fan of home schooling. he wanted them to go to public school, but pam wouldn't have it. >> she always wanted us to be this tall and be her little girls. you know, she very genuinely loved us, and we were her world. >> you were her reason to be. >> yes, oh, yeah. >> but finally, when it was time for high school, pam relented. >> i think she realized that you can't control an environment for a child forever, though. >> what was it like to make the transition? >> it was a culture shock. it was different. i was there maybe a week and my new friends are like, let's educate you on the ways of the world. i was like, oh, my gosh.
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>> which, of course, included boys. >> two of my girlfriends are like, there's this guy, and you need to meet him, and i think you two are really going to get along. i thought, aw, great. >> the guy was aaron candelario and before long -- >> i was in love. yes. i was very much in love. >> you know, we had such a connection. >> no kidding. both jehovah's witnesses, both home schooled by their mothers. or at least aaron was home schooled until his parents' marriage broke up. >> we were so drawn to each other, that two people were so driven, and so optimistic, and just wanted to do big things in life. >> so after high school, they got engaged, and full of excitement, planned a wedding. then one night shannon's mother, pam, sent the girls off to bible study and told their father, jerry, they needed to talk. >> she looked up and says, i don't want to be married to you anymore.
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i don't want to be here. >> everything was fine, fine, fine, then -- >> we seemed to be getting along. everything was fine. she said, this is it, i'm done. >> what did that feel like? >> it was a crush. you were crushed. >> what happened? no one knew. except that now these two had one more thing in common. both products of broken homes. the wedding day approached, just a few days to go, when shannon's mother, pam, and aaron's dad, ralph, invited the bride and groom-to-be for dinner and a talk. ralph was every bit a devout a believer as pam. so some premarital guidance perhaps? oh, no. nothing like that. >> they told us, we ran off, we eloped and got married. >> wait, what? your mother and aaron's father? >> yes. >> who does that? >> i don't know. but i can't tell you how much it felt like i got hit by a bus. >> do you know what that meant?
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it meant that by the time you got married, you were marrying your stepbrother. >> right. >> i didn't say much. i was just like, well, we're leaving. >> and suddenly jerry realized how blind he'd been. >> you didn't understand, but then afterwards it all -- all the pieces fell into place. >> you were never suspicious? >> i trusted her. don't we do that? in a relationship? >> no trust now. shannon and aaron were furious, told the elopers, interlopers more like, stay away from the wedding. but they couldn't pretend it hadn't happened. and when they hit the little bumps most young marriages encounter, it colored everything. did your father and her mother's relationship have anything to do with what happened to you and shannon? >> you know, we were pretty determined not to let their relationship have an effect, but, you know, it's always
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something that's in the back of your head. >> after a year and a half, shannon and aaron divorced. pam and ralph's marriage, on the other hand, thrived. they moved into a big house on a corn lot in the walsenburg, an owed coal mining town about 50 miles south of pueblo. they opened up an antiques mall in the center of town. then bought a vacation home in oregon. >> that was the happiest i ever remember seeing her. >> for nearly three years, shannon still hurt, rarely spoke to her mom. but then one day pam asked her to lunch. >> she was so focused on wanting me to know that we had a future together, her and i. >> wow. so finally she was coming around on her own accord. >> it felt like it, yeah. you know, when i told her, i said, i can't handle you being my mother and being -- doing what you did, i said, but i want to be your friend and i want to try this. >> so this is a break-through
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lunch. it seemed like it at the time. >> it was a break-through lunch, yeah. >> or a beginning at least. and then just a few days later -- >> i was at work. and i see aaron's name come up on my phone. >> right. >> he's like, you know what? something as a happened in walsenburg. my dad's being returned to the hospital and they can't find your mom. but i think someone's dead. >> coming up, who was dead? and was the killer on the loose in a small town? the family in shock, and an ex-husband under suspicion. >> you're always going to look at the closest people to the victim. >> when "dateline extra" continues.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. ralph and pam's marriage caused a major rift between pam and her daughter. just like when it seemed like
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mother and daughter might be repairing their fractured relationship, there was news of a disturbance at the couple's house. ralph was badly injured and being airlifted to a hospital. but what happened to pam. >> returning to "tangled," here again is keith morrison. >> 7:00 a.m., january 16th, 2014. a cold morning in walsenburg, colorado. >> 911. where is your emergency? >> ralph and pam candelario's neighbor had been on her way to work. >> we need an ambulance. >> ver va had never encountered anything like this before. >> i looked over and he was saying, help me, help me. >> ralph was on the ground, in front of his house, hurt. >> i got to him and asked him if he needed help. and he seemed to be kind of out of it. >> finally ralph managed to get the words out. he and his wife had been attacked and robbed.
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very afraid the attackers might still be in the house, called 911. >> he looks like he had been shot. he said somebody broke in last night. >> how are they doing? >> he's not good. crying. he told me to go help her. she's in the kitchen. i'm going to get my neighbor to help me here. ralph, we're getting help for you, ralph. okay? >> the police arrived. went into the house with guns drawn. and there at the entrance to the kitchen, still in her nightgown, lay pam candelario. her head covered in blood. >> i knew she was dead when the ambulance showed up, because they didn't go into the house. they just stayed, and were working on ralph. >> ralph wasn't shot, but he was hurt. and he was air lifted to the nearest trauma hospital. walsenburg, as local reporter eric mullens knew, was not equipped to handle an investigation of this magnitude. >> you have small town
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departments, five, six, seven people. you don't have murder cops on staff. you don't have forensic professionals on staff. >> so by the time shannon arrived at the hospital looking for her mother, an agent of the colorado bureau of investigation was there to meet her. along with aaron. how did she take it? >> about as well as you expect anybody to get hit by a sledgehammer or whatever. first you're just kind of shocked, then a little bit of denial. >> suddenly i realized that that last conversation i had with her was -- that was it. >> no fresh start now. her mother was dead. and then shannon saw ralph. >> and he lost it. he just turned into a sobbing, shaking maniac. >> ralph's face was banged up. he had bruises in several places. he was confused. like a man coming out of a concussion.
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>> just exhausted. my head still just hurts. >> and then as soon as he was able, and still in his hospital clothes, ralph talked to agents of the cbi. >> sorry to hear about your loss. >> it's been a horrible day. >> the best he could remember, said ralph, he got up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. then decided to go downstairs to make sure the wood-burning stove was still lit. but on his way to the bottom of the steps, he said, somebody hit him from behind. and then again from the side. >> and i put my arm up, and, boom, i mean, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. it hit me hard, you know. and so i went backwards. the ringing -- i couldn't see no more. >> ralph was knocked unconscious. >> i mean, i don't remember anything else, other than waking up in the morning. >> then, said ralph, still disoriented, he tried to sit up. >> i looked down the hallway.
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i could see pam, her legs. she was there. >> revealed by the first rays of a warm morning sun. >> her head -- there was just blood all over. and there was blood on the floor. and i touched her cheek. and she was cold, cold, cold. and i ran out of the house. >> and that, said ralph, is when he saw his neighbor and yelled for help. but who did it? robbers? or someone else? normally, said walsenburg police captain vince suarez -- >> you always look at the closest people to the victim. >> except in this case, ralph candelario was also a victim, and clearly wanted to help find the killer or killers. cbi agent jody wright -- >> he was very cooperative, absolutely.
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>> so investigators turned their attention to the spurned ex-husband, jerry palmer. >> actually, the next day was when the investigators called me. >> it was no secret jerry and pam did not get along after the divorce. a divorce which, by the way, she asked him to file. since as a jehovah's witness, she wasn't allowed to. so then you filed for divorce. >> i filed for divorce. >> accommodating to the end. >> to the end. >> and now, the police were calling. >> and i told them i'd be more than happy to talk to them. >> if they come up to nebraska. >> i said if you've got about six hours, you can be here to talk to me. >> nebraska? jerry had moved far away. which cleared him for sure. of course, they would need to look at shannon and aaron, too, given their falling out with pam and ralph. but -- >> they were cleared almost immediately, because -- >> they were nowhere around?
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>> yeah, they were not involved. >> dead-end. the crime scene people did find some things, mind you, including a bloody fireplace poker that turned out to be the murder weapon. >> the marking on her head was the exact replica of the shape of the fire poker, the end of the poker. >> they cataloged everything they found. broken glass in the backdoor. they even took the knobs off drawers and sent them to the lab hoping the intruders left dna or fingerprints on them. and then quite unexpected. something remarkable turned up. and right through the front door of the local newspaper -- so what did you think when you first read that document? >> i felt i had my own little version of the pentagon papers in a way. >> coming up, a letter that had everyone in town talking. >> i remember reading it and putting it down thinking, no, it
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didn't say that. >> when "dateline extra" continues.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. pam candelario was found murdered in her home. her husband, ralph, was badly beaten. ralph told police his version of the events. then a letter arrived at a local newspaper. was the news fit to print or an exercise in creative writing? that's what investigators wanted to know. continuing with "tangled," here's keith morrison. >> it's a grand name perhaps for a weekly paper in an out of the way little town, the world journal. but then walsenberg was a thriving coal mines offered endless promise. now antique stores like pam and ralphs filled the gaps left behind by departing commerce. >> i think in all small towns, you see, maybe a degree of selling the heritage because there's nothing else left to sell.
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>> so no surprise said eric mullens of the "world journal." invasion and killing at the candelario place was a big deal for the weekly paper and for the whole town. >> we didn't know who was out there. >> people like their neighbors, dina and mark. >> i was afraid. i didn't even want to go to my paint class that i do in the evening because i was afraid to be out. >> a lot of people got guns. >> a lot of neighbors told me. i went out and got a gun. you know? i want to protect myself. >> everybody knew the candelarios had a nice house, filled with vintage treasures. >> there's a little jewelry that pam kept. this is her dresser. >> some of which were missing as ralph told the police during a videotaped tour. >> the television's gone. >> okay. >> the candelarios had been about to leave on vacation. so maybe the intruders thought they were gone and were surprised to find them at home.
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but who? a citizen's tip supplied a possible lead. >> she brought up individual names that he believed were involved in this homicide. >> ramon bear rose and jose nino, known drug users, both had rap sheets, a history of breaking and entering and assault. they were trying to sell jewelry the day after the murders. >> you have a responsibility to check into that? >> yeah. >> pam's daughter shannon found her blaming ralph for not preventing what happened. >> i was angry at him. in my mind i was like, why didn't you protect my mother. that's your role as her husband. >> and right about then the biggest scoop of eric mullen's career landed right in the lap of the "huerfano world journal." >> i've been in news since i was 15 years old. i've seen a lot of things walk in the newsroom. i had never seen anything like this. >> in through the front door
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marched ralph candelario with an open letter to the whole town. >> it was him explaining what he can remember after he had been treated up in pueblo for his injury, and interviewed by the cbi. >> this is my story. >> this is my story, this is what happened to me. >> to whom it may concern, he began. and we're including his typos exactly as they appeared in his letter. his memory was coming back. he wanted to explain, and maybe shannon was right, he felt guilty. i am angry at myself for not finding a way to do more, or just getting myself killed, too. now, he wrote, he had an image of who his attackers were. i got a glimpse of that person, a tall dark man with yellow glasses, short, curly hair, wide nose, large lips and marks on the sides of his face. the tall guy was talking on the phone in spanish, he said. one of the two fellows the
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tipster called about? hard to know. but one of them knocked him out, he wrote, and when he came to, there was pam. but not dead, as he first told the police. it says here she was still alive. she started to convulse. and i held her hand for just a couple minutes. and she just went quiet. i yelled at her again. i just started crying. and then the two men returned. i just broke down. i was crying, and i was cold, and i was freaked out. pam was there with me, just a few feet away. things took a turn for the worst, he wrote. then he pointed his gun at me and fired. it just clicked. i can't fully say what happened to me at that point. in fact, he was so scared, he said, he soiled his pajamas. he wrote that his ordeal began after he and pam went to bed on tuesday night, not wednesday, as he originally thought. and it lasted nearly two days.
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he woke up on thursday morning. i thought my nightmare was over. but i looked down the hall, and i could see pam's legs in the kitchen. that's when he ran out of the house and found his neighbor who called 911. of course, the "world journal" printed all that though the police weren't too happy about it. and eric mullens? >> i remember taking it home and reading it and putting it down and thinking, no, it didn't say that. and picking it back up again. >> but remarkable as ralph's letter was, it still wasn't the whole story. a few weeks after the murder, he mustered up the courage and told the police -- >> while he was held captive, he had asked to go to the restroom and he was sexually assaulted in the bathroom. >> why didn't he say anything about that before? >> his explanation was, that he was embarrassed. >> it might be a little bit difficult to talk about, but the smallest details could be very important, so keep that in mind.
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>> ralph agreed to show the investigators exactly what happened, and where. >> he grabbed me with the other hand on my hip right here. and he proceeded to assault me. >> so that was the whole awful story. but if ralph thought that sharing his new more detailed recollections would clear the air, he was wrong. what did you think when you saw it? >> i was pretty blown away by what was written. >> coming up, back at home with detectives, ralph gets his own surprise. >> he was very upset that they were missing. >> a better question, why would he care? when "dateline extra" continues.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. when ralph candelario's account of the home invasion was published, it became the talk of the town. everyone wondered, could this story be true? ralph said yes. and police wondered if the truth was in there, somewhere. returning to "tangled," here's keith morrison. >> ralph candelario appeared to believe that his 3,300-word
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letter about the murder of his wife would be the accepted true account of that terrible event. but here's what pam's daughter, shannon, thought. >> it felt overly dramatic and really just glamorous that he was the victim of this. and that wasn't -- that made me sick. >> and angry obviously. >> yeah. >> her sister kelsey's interpretation? >> i thought it was very strange. i thought that he had some work to do on a story because it sounded really phony. >> entitled to their opinions, of course. but then so were the cops. recovered memory? no, said the cbi's jody wright. more like a cover-up. >> nothing in his statement matched anything that i knew to be at the crime scene. it just didn't make sense. none of it. >> it wasn't really that ralph
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changed his story in his "world journal" manifesto, not exactly. more like he kept adding to it. so he watches very carefully what you're doing and tailors his story to match what he thinks you're finding. >> exactly. >> ralph kept explaining, kept offering not less, but more details. about, for example, the drawer pulls in his house, the ones investigators removed to test for fingerprints. >> in the event that one of the invasion persons touched them. >> now here's ralph with the police at his house just after pam was murdered. noticing the missing knobs. >> what happened to all the knobs? >> he was very upset that they were missing. >> i don't understand why the knobs are gone. >> and he would know you're looking for fingerprints of these home invaders. >> well, yes. >> but what if they didn't find any fingerprints besides his and pam's? well, in his letter written a few days later, ralph provided a new detail that accounted for that possibility.
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>> all of a sudden, now his attackers, he remembered that they wore gloves with l.e.d. lights on them. which would explain why no one else's prints would be on the knobs of the drawers. >> have you ever heard of gloves with l.e.d. lights? >> we researched it, because i had never heard of that. they do exist. >> in the letter, ralph also changed the time of pam's death, backed it up by more than 24 hours. why? could that perhaps have been a response to this investigator's challenge? >> she didn't die at 3:00 in the morning. it had to be earlier than that. we'll know after today. we'll know that. >> okay. >> and that's going to come back to you. >> okay. >> but that's when ralph reported the invaders were in his house just a few hours. now in his letter, he remembered the ordeal lasting nearly two days. and do you remember we mentioned it a while back that broken
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glass in the back door? the thing was, the glass fell out the door, not in, as you would expect it would do if somebody was breaking into the house. the police, of course, brought that up with ralph. and what did he write in his letter? i went out the back, and the rear door glass was broken. some pieces fell out when i opened the door. ralph even had answers to questions he wasn't asked, like, why was the fireplace poker exactly where it belonged by the fireplace? >> normally if you used a weapon, you're going to find it somewhere around where your victim is. and it looked like the poker had been put back in its original place. >> here's what ralph wrote. i picked up the poker to stir up the fire. i saw blood on the end of it and put it down. so investigators studied ralph's manifesto for clues. and thanks to the "huerfano
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world journal," so did everybody else in town. neighbors, mike and dina -- >> it sounded like a novel to me. >> a bizarre one at that. >> shannon who had been angry at ralph for not protecting her mother, read the letter and began to have thoughts that were much more disturbing. >> i didn't get through more than a page and a half and i threw it, and i said, this is bull [ bleep ]. i said, this is the worst -- i could barely stomach to finish it. >> and aaron, shannon's ex-husband, ralph's son? aaron went to a very dark place indeed. oh, you have no idea. you were 11 years old when your mother disappeared. >> yes. >> coming up, secrets in the basement. >> i had been going through some of my dad's stuff in the basement and found a box of stuff that supposedly she had taken with her. >> when "dateline extra" continues.
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welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. police weren't buying the story ralph candelario shared with the local newspaper about how his wife was murdered. now ralph's son, aaron, had a story, too. this one from the past. here again is keith morrison with "tangled." >> the year was 2004, and aaron candelario was 11 years old. his parents has recently separated were sharing custody. one day after a weekend at his dad's house, aaron went home to find -- >> there was just a note on the coffee table that was in kind of sketchy handwriting, but nevertheless said, i love you, my boys, and i'm taking off. >> his mother, dina, was simply gone.
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aaron was devastated. what did your father suggest may have happened to her? >> that she possibly had moved to missouri. a guy that she had been talking to online for quite some time, you know, maybe she ran away to be with him. >> a missing persons case was opened, but nothing came of it. aaron and his brother moved in with ralph full-time. but aaron couldn't move on. she had to have left some trail somewhere. barely a teenager, he taught himself every web search engine, looked for years. but found no sign of his mom online. and a terrible suspicion took hold of him, hardened into something like certainty. his mother must be dead. his father must have done it. >> and after that, it became more of, okay, where would he put her body? >> he was maybe 13 or 14 when he thought about those old coal mines around walsenburg.
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>> you actually went and looked? >> oh, yeah, i went through a lot of those mines myself. >> alone? >> mm-hmm. >> you're looking for the remains of your own mother. i mean, i can't imagine what that -- >> i can't explain it. it's always been a fire that just drives you to do something. >> and then one day -- >> i had been going through some of my dad's stuff in the basement. i found a box of stuff that she had supposedly taking with her. a denim jacket her mother had given her, passport was there. >> what was that like. >> that was kind of the final straw. >> naturally if she was gone, she would have taken those things with her. >> that was my final piece of the puzzle. >> he left it there. left the box in the basement and emerged a changed person. shannon told us, aaron wouldn't talk much about his mother when they were married. but -- >> i would find him up at night just, over her stuff, just over papers. i mean, just emotional. >> going through her papers. >> just going through her stuff.
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whatever little bit and pieces he had left of his mother he couldn't even handle. just -- it wrecked him. >> and when aaron heard pam was dead -- >> my first response was, how did he do it. >> and then he told the cops about his mother. now, you may have a serial killer on your hands. serial killer of spouses. >> something like that. >> that was the thought. >> two wives, one missing, the other dead. and the one thing they had in common was ralph candelario. but suspicion alone wasn't enough. it wasn't proof. so the investigation continued? >> yes. >> in an effort to shake him, or maybe even get a confession, they sought help from the one person whose presence back at the hospital made ralph break down and cry. shannon. >> cbi had me call him, bugged my phone and tried to get him to tell me what happened. >> she must have been so scared. >> she was terrified. it was probably one of the hardest things she's ever had to
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do. >> ralph? hey, this is shannon. >> but shannon did it. >> i've been waking up having panic attacks. i can't deal with this. i want to know what happened. can you tell me anything? >> yeah. the only thing, you know, that i know is that a lot of stuff was stolen from the house. >> okay. >> ralph stuck to his story. a deadly home invasion. >> and then i found her. >> yeah. >> and that's, you know -- >> yeah. >> i tried to deal with that. >> shannon pressed ralph for details. >> the one guy that hit me that i saw from the front was taller than me. >> okay. >> and he had a dark complexion. you know, he had marks on his face. >> and then something that didn't sound quite right. >> and i don't know. and that's -- and it felt like a split second. >> a split second? remember, in his letter, ralph
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said his cap tors held him and abused him for nearly two days. >> in my mind, if you're not going to tell me what happened, and you're going to dance around the issue and tell me different stories, what are you hiding? >> investigators wondering the same thing, tried to find answers in the evidence. on a laptop they found hits for,, just days before the murder. somebody had been visiting the site at least. >> that would have been our suspicion. >> it's going to be either pam or ralph. >> right. >> and then they found ralph's real life mistress. yes, he had one. and she said they carried on for most of the time he was married to pam. but now shannon thought back to the last time she saw her mother. >> because i asked her if she was happy. >> what did she say? >> she realized that she had given up her family, because she had destroyed this relationship
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with me and kelsey, and she's gotten into this new marriage, telling me that she just wasn't as happy as she should have been. >> lots of circumstantial evidence, almost enough. not quite. and then the antique rugs. >> i was searching the kitchen area and found in the washing machine two small size rugs. and the rugs were still very wet. and they were balled up to one side. >> but when ralph saw the rugs during a walk-through with the police, he didn't seem to recognize them. >> i mean, i've never seen these rugs. >> the minute we heard he had never seen them, we knew the russian had importance. we just didn't know how. >> they sent the rugs to the lab. and months later they heard back. what did you find when you tested them? >> pam's blood was found on the rugs. >> they had caught ralph in an obvious lie. he must have put those rugs into the machine himself, hoping to wash away the evidence.
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finally they had enough. almost nine months after pam's death, officers went to the antique store with an arrest warrant. >> that's when we learned that he decided to go on vacation. >> ralph candelario was gone. >> coming up, a manhunt for a suspected killer by cell phone. >> i initiated some phone calls with ralph so we could try to track him down. >> but would he answer? when "dateline extra" continues.
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>> welcome back. here's keith morrison with the conclusion of "tangled." it took nine months of painstaking police work before investigators finally had enough evidence to arrest ralph candelario for the murder of his wife pam, but they'd have to find him first.
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ralph was on vacation or maybe on the run. >> i initiated some phone calls with ralph so that we could try to track him down. >> they tracked his cell phone and caught up with him. >> driver, get your hands in the air. >> in northern california. >> walk back to the sound of my voice. back to me. >> you all right? >> yeah. >> charged him with first degree murder. pam's daughters were relieved when they got the news. >> all i could think to myself was finally. >> what was that like? >> it was like yea, then it was like this is reality all over again. it's starting. >> meaning, of course, reliving the crime at the trial. >> i'm antsy. i'm eager. >> you want to go and testify? >> yeah. i want this to be over. and i know that i need to cope with whatever answer comes. >> your opening. >> yes, your honor. >> then here it was, february 25th, 2016.
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already ralph had managed a victory, had tied prosecutor ryan brackley's hands, in one way, anyway. >> well, we tried to tell the entire story about ralph candelario and ralph candelario's life. >> in other words, the very suspicious disappearance of dena, the first wife, whose body has never been found. but -- >> ultimately, the judge denied that motion, and we went to trial without that piece. >> you've already heard about the prosecution's evidence. ralph's open letter to the "huerfano "world journal" which, said prosecutor matt durkin, had been exposed as an elaborate lie. >> that letter was in itself a very sensational story, but it was inconsistent with all of the physical evidence in the investigation that had occurred to that point. >> which the prosecution listed in detail for the jury to hear. but there's always more than one side to a story. defense attorney dariel weaver
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told the jury that when she read carefully through all the prosecution material, here's what jumped right out at her. >> when you take a good hard look at their evidence, when you see that they've interpreted the evidence to fit the conclusion that they drew in the first 12 hours of this case, you see that all it is is assumptions and suppositions and cut corners. >> reporter: but, said the defense, if the jury looked at facts and not assumptions, they'd see ralph's story about what happened to pam had to be true. remember those two men fingered as possible killers? they had records, drug offenses, burglaries. >> she walks in on a burglary. burglaries aren't uncommon in walsenburg especially with all the drugs around. >> reporter: then, said the defense, one of the bad guys saw pam and -- >> he hits pam in the head hard.
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he's standing there in the kitchen, fire poker in his hand, wondering what to do. >> reporter: the robbers must have thought pam and ralph had already left on vacation. >> this family was supposed to be gone. that was the talk around town. >> reporter: so, for the jury it came down to whose story to believe. prosecutors said the police cleared those suspects right back at the beginning. but nothing could clear ralph. and nothing could soften a truly shocking allegation -- ralph murdered pam because divorce would get him disfellowshipped, cast out, from his church. >> pam wasn't leaving. and so he had only one option left. >> reporter: if he became a widower, he'd be free to marry again. it was, said the prosecutors, one of the more disturbing motives for murder they'd ever heard. so his religious beliefs were more important than somebody else's life? >> ralph candelario's life was
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more important than anyone else's life. >> reporter: so the jury got the case. and they worked till the end of the day and then through a second and then a third. tick tock. >> whether they convict him or they don't is going to be a different set of emotions. >> reporter: and then in the middle of the third day -- >> we the jury find the defendant, ralph leroy candelario, guilty of count number one of first degree murder. >> reporter: guilty. but the end of ralph's story? oh, no. on the day set aside for his sentencing ralph decided the plot needed one more twist. the jail issued him a safety razor to clean up for court. ralph used it to slash his wrists and throat. his own son was not sympathetic. >> well, you know, the sucker would rather go out than actually face his destiny that way. >> reporter: suicide attempt, delaying tactic, whatever it was it didn't work.
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a day later the judge ordered ralph back to court. >> people versus ralph lee candelario sentencing. >> reporter: and ralph, bandaged up, got another day in the spotlight. >> your honor, i have maintained that i have been innocent through this whole process. >> reporter: and then a keen observer might almost have heard the jaws drop around the courtroom. >> pam will be resurrected. we will be able to see her again. we will be able to watch her laugh and sing and do all the things that made her such a special person. and in that regard, i put my hope in that future. but until then, i am going to file an appeal for this particular motion. >> reporter: for now his future is life without the possibility of parole. >> i had never had a weight so heavy lifted. it was -- >> exactly. >> it was wonderful. >> reporter: i got to say, by the way, don't want to embarrass
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you, but i have found that investigators of homicides are the biggest softies on the planet. >> we're not supposed to let that out, but once in a while it happens. >> reporter: you're not supposed to care as much as you do, but you really do. >> you do. >> oh, absolutely. >> you become very attached. >> those girls are special. pam had a part in that, and they're -- hopefully they'll be able to live on her legacy. >> reporter: and ralph's legacy? because of him, aaron will go on searching, hoping to learn what happened to his mother. >> yeah. i will be looking. probably in -- oh, in some way my entire life i'll always be asking questions. >> reporter: and shannon -- >> he needs to realize this isn't over. he didn't just murder someone and have nothing afterwards. he left behind family. he left behind a disaster. and if i'm the only thing to remind him of that, then that's what i'm there for. >> that's all for this edition
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of "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. thanks for joining us. i am freaking out. i walk in and my sister's not there. her door is open, her lights are on, her bed's undone. everything was horrible. and i felt it. >> she had been fearless on the front lines in iraq. >> pretty amazing. i saw her as like a really strong soldier. >> but something had her terrified at home. >> i'm scared. i don't feel safe. >> a desperate call to police.


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